How to Support a Child Struggling with Anxiety
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25% of children will experience some form of anxiety before they reach their teenage years. When these feelings are addressed early on, they typically go away with age. Here are some tips that parents can introduce into their parenting techniques to help their child who may be struggling.
Pay Attention to the Warning Signs
Essentially, anxiety is fear surrounding the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future, It is a mental and physical response to unfamiliar situations that may be potentially dangerous or stressful. While everyone feels anxious from time to time, living with an anxiety disorder can be difficult and even handicapping for children and adults alike.
Here are some warning signs to look out for in your child or teen:
- Inability to focus.
- Refusing to go to school.
- Headaches and stomach aches.
- Avoiding specific situations.
- Meltdowns before school or social activities about their hair, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Meltdowns about homework.
- Having extremely high expectations for themselves in school or sports.
- Crying before social activities or school.
Help Your Child to Calm Down and Relax
When you notice that your child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it’s important that you try sooth your child before talking to or reasoning with them. Try getting your child to practice deep breathing exercises, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to ease their intense emotions.
Acknowledge and Validate Their Fears
Once your child is more relaxed and able to talk, ask them what’s bothering them or why they’re worried. Rather than explaining away their concerns, even if they're irrational fears, take the time to hear them. Instead of telling them that they’ll get through it and that they can be a big kid, validate their concerts with “understanding” statements like the following:
- I understand that you’re worried about…
- These feelings can be frightening…
- How can I help you feel more relaxed?
Help Them to Confront their Fears with Baby Steps
If there are specific situations that cause your child to feel anxious, having your child face their fears head-on can cause more harm than good. However, introducing small exercises and activities can help to boost their confidence and work toward tackling the real thing eventually. Try at-home exercises, like practicing conversations, watching helpful videos, and role-playing.
Seeking Help at Tapestry
At Tapestry, our mental health treatment programs are dedicated to understanding our clients as whole people with varied life experiences. Whether you have questions about mental health or how to support a loved one struggling with their mental health, we are here for you. Contact us today by filling out a confidential form or give us a call at (844) 299-1343.